A former Granite Hills High School teacher accused of sexual misconduct with an underage former student was ordered Thursday to stand trial on felony and misdemeanor charges.
The 55-year-old, who taught English and coached sports at the East County school, was arrested last year by El Cajon police for alleged conduct involving the then 17-year-old victim.
Lopez is charged with felony possession of child pornography and sending harmful material to a minor, as well as misdemeanor molesting or abusing a child. He was retained to answer those charges after a two-day preliminary hearing in El Cajon Superior Court and faces up to four years and eight months in state prison if convicted on all charges.
The alleged victim described during the preliminary hearing how she first saw Lopez as a mentor, but their interactions progressed to flirty text messages and shared photos.
Numerous text message exchanges between the pair accounted for the bulk of the evidence presented during the hearing. According to testimony, police discovered that more than 8,000 text messages were sent between Lopez and the girl over the course of a few months.
The girl also sent Lopez pictures of herself and gave her access to an online photo album that allegedly contained top-of-the-line pictures of her, according to testimony.
Although she testified that she cared for him at the time, she said that now she feels “totally the opposite.”
She testified that her mother found out what was happening and reported it to the school. Initially, Lopez was placed on unpaid leave, but school district officials announced in August that she no longer worked for the district.
Lopez also allegedly sent the victim photos of himself that Deputy District Attorney Joshua Brisbane argued in court were “sexually motivated.”
“Under the pretext of taking care of her, he manipulated (the victim),” the prosecutor said.
Lopez remains out of custody on $70,000 bond.
–-City news service